Babri demolition, 25 years on

Kashmir Times. Dated: 12/6/2017 1:45:46 PM

The aggression of the act needs to be assessed not only in terms of vandalism and litigation but also in terms of its massive impact on India's socio-political landscape

25 years after the demolition of the Babri mosque, it is important to reflect what exactly the incident signifies and to analyse and assess how one incident impacted the political landscape of the country with far reaching consequences on its socio-political landscape. The eve of the 25th anniversary coincides with the hearing of the land dispute at the Babri mosque site. Whatever be its eventual outcome, the litigation signifies how the discourse over an incident that has shaped the course of the country and its nationhood has been reduced to a simple battle for the title rights to 2.77 acres land where once stood a historic mosque. In 2010, the Allahabad high court ruled that Nirmohi Akhara, Sunni Central Wakf Board, UP and Ramlalla Virajman were joint holders of the disputed property, and awarded each a third of the land at the site. The following year, the Supreme Court stayed the operation of the order on grounds that the decree of partition was not sought by any of the parties to the litigation. Ordering status quo at the site, the Supreme Court restrained any kind of religious activity. Seven years on, the Supreme Court will start final hearings on the case. It is a sad moment in time of a democratic country when the focus shifts to a legal battle of ownership when the criminals and hooligans who brought down a monument, an act that goes beyond its manifestation of cultural and religious aggression, have not been touched. The country's legal justice system has miserably failed to nail all those who were part of bringing the mosque down but its judiciary is busy settling the matter of ownership of the Babri land and deciding the question of whether it will be deemed a shared property of all or will any one party become the sole owner. This focus intends to gloss over the basic act of aggression and its far-reaching consequences.
It need not be forgotten that the dispute has spawned high-voltage politics, divided communities, triggered riots, given birth to terrorism and wounded India repeatedly with the ghost of Babri demolition rising up from the debris every time there is an onslaught on its secular fabric by extremists. Indian political scene, since Babri demolition, is a continuous reminder of how the dangerous blend of religion with politics, which the incident signifies, can keep a nation on tenterhooks with the prolongation of a contentious issue. The demolition must be understood as a grim and dark chapter in post-independence India and a blot on Indian democracy. It must be remembered not only as an incident prompted by the politics of hate perpetuated by the extreme right wing, who exhorted their followers to bring down the mosque. The Babri demolition 25 years ago was a manifestation of the complete collapse of the law and order machinery and of the state becoming complicit in such an act, through its complacency or deliberate calculatedness. The role of the state's institutions in assessing the mood of the crowd masquerading as kar sevaks, their inability to stop them from taking law into their hands and the reckless manner in which they allowed the Hindutva inspired demolition squad to hurriedly build a structure on the rubble and thereby change the legal status of the site. The tragedy is that while a so-called secular government allowed this imposition of a majoritarian aggression on the minorities of the country, the judiciary endorsed it without opening the crucial question of why an existing mosque was brought down and without going into the far more crucial question of how it impacted the secular fabric of the country and eroded the faith of the public, particularly minotirites in the rule of the law and the institutions of the state. The demolition of the Babri mosque was a fallacy and the shocking tendency to shift the discourse by skirting around the dangers it posed to secular polity as well as the rule of law an even bigger folly. Unless, the basic and moot question of what the demolition signified is not grappled and engaged with, there is no way that the country can evade its haunting and longer lasting repercussions.



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